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Top 10 Things to Do in Amsterdam

What to do in Amsterdam? We’ve got ten good ideas for you, including seeing Rembrandt’s The Night Watch in all its glory, catching classical concerts for free and paying a visit to a kitchen garden with a difference…

1. Dam Square

Dam Square marks the centre of Amsterdam’s Old Town, and is the focal point of the city. It is the site of the Royal Palace, which hosts state functions like the King’s New Year reception but is open to visitors when not in official use. This is also the site of the Netherlands’ National Monument, dedicated to the victims of WWII – a memorial day is held on May 4th every year. Upscale department store De Bijenkorf (the Beehive) also sits on one of the corners. A major tourist hub, the square holds a funfair around King’s Day and Christmas time.

2. Van Gogh Museum

Want to see the largest collection of Van Gogh pieces in the world? Sitting on Museumplein (plein means square) in Amsterdam South, the Van Gogh Museum is displays a veritable treasure trove of works by the Netherlands’ most iconic artist. Here you’ll see famous works like Van Gogh’s series of self-portraits, the still life Sunflowers and what’s argued to be his last painting, Wheatfield with Crows. Exhibits also include works from the artist’s Impressionist and Post-impressionist contemporaries, including Rodin sculptures and paintings by Monet, Gaugin and Manet.

Paulus Potterstraat 7 1071 CX Amsterdam

3. Keukenhof

You’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful sight than the springtime tulips of Keukenhof (‘kitchen garden’ in Dutch). A rolling ornamental garden located in Lisse, an hour south west of Amsterdam, this day trip is a must if you’re visiting between mid-March and mid-May (the only time the garden’s open). Known as the Garden of Europe, it’s the world’s largest flower plantation with seven million bulbs planted per year – and to show it off even more, a Flower Parade is held annually in mid-April when the tulips are at their best.

Stationsweg 166-A 2161 AM Lisse

4. Anne Frank House

Queues often stretch onto the street for the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam’s uniquely prominent reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust and city’s Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Skip some of the crowds by visiting either at first opening, or 45 minutes before closing time. Located on Prinsengracht canal, inside you’ll pass behind the (reconstructed) bookcase that hid the door to the secret annex where the Frank family hid, and see an exhibition on Anne Frank’s life.

Prinsengracht 263-267 1016 GV Amsterdam

5. Rijksmuseum

Also found on Museumplein, next door to the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is the Dutch national museum. Feast your eyes on a vast collection of Dutch Golden Age paintings including Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and works by Vermeer and Jan Steen, plus marvel at the stern of British warship the HMS Royal Charles, which was captured on successful Dutch raid on Medway in the 17th century. The building has been restored to its palatial 19th century glory, and also displays an engrossing collection of Asian art.

Rijksmuseum Museumstraat 1 1071 XX Amsterdam

6. Vondelpark

West of busy squares Leidseplein and Museumplein, Vondelpark in Amsterdam’s Old South neighbourhood is the largest and most popular park in the city. It’s open 24/7 and is full all the time, especially in the height of summer – families, runners, roller-bladers and cyclists take over by day and partying groups keep it jumping by night. The park is home to the National Film Museum’s movie theatre (housed in a gorgeous 19th century pavilion), where you can see everything from silent movies to the latest blockbusters. There’s also an amphitheatre where free concerts are held between June and August.

7. Stedelijk Museum

Amsterdam’s home for modern art is the Stedelijk Museum on Museumplein, where you can see great works from prominent 20th- and 21st-century artists. This stretches from the likes of Van Gogh and Matisse to Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Gilbert & George. Every significant movement in modern art is covered, with collections focussed around Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Dutch movement De Stijil, Bauhaus and Pop Art.

Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam

8. The Canal Ring

Amsterdam’s centre is made up of six major concentric canals that ring the Old Town. Dug into the city in the 17th century to attract wealthy merchant residents, the waterways are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the six canals - the Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht, Lijnbaansgracht and Singelgracht on foot or, as is more fitting for a town home to nearly half a million bikes, by cycling. You could even take to the water yourself on a boat tour, by hiring your own paddle boat or by climbing aboard the floating flower market on the Singel between the Koningsplein and Muntplein.

9. Concertgebouw

Another Museumplein wonder, the Concertgebouw – which literally translates as concert building – is known as one of the world’s best classical music venues due to its superior acoustics. You don’t have to fork out a fortune to hear the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in action, though: from September to June, they hold a free 30 minute concert every Wednesday at 12.30pm. This is often a warm-up or rehearsal for a sold-out show happening later in the evening.

Concertgebouwplein 10 1071 LN Amsterdam

10. Red Light District

Amsterdam’s tourist-packed Red Light District is often held up as an example of the city’s tolerant attitude. Known as De Wallen (’the quays’) it takes over a knot of streets and alleys in the oldest part of the city south of Central Station and east of main road Damrak. Among the peep show venues and brothels are bars, restaurants and even the gothic Oude Kerk, the oldest church in Amsterdam on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal at Oudekerksplein. Most visitors go just to see what all the fuss is about – it’s a compact area that can be covered on foot in ten minutes. Note: it’s banned to take pictures of women behind the windows, so respect the rules, the risk of losing your camera is high.

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